Smoky Mountain Trip 2017

A few weeks ago, my wife and I had the pleasure of visiting the smoky mountains. This is the first time we’ve visited during this time of year and considering the fires that took place last year, we were curious as to how much damage was still around.

As it turns out, there are plenty of scars from Pigeon Forge through Gatlinburg all the way to Chimney Tops where one of the initial fires started. Chimney tops picnic area is still closed to the public. Forest fires are a peculiar thing. Certain trees were burned more than others while a few feet away, brush and trees were untouched.

Fire Damage

Fire Damage

There are a row of hotels in Gatlinburg that were burned down with their stone chimneys the only thing remaining. The lift chairs that ride up the mountain in downtown Gatlinburg have been replaced with new poles, wires, and chairs. There’s also a new chair lift near the entrance of the city.

New Chair Lift

New Chair Lift

Both Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg were lit up for the holidays. It was mild weather for the most part. It began to snow on the day we left and although we didn’t get to see the mountains covered in snow, just seeing it snow in the mountains was enough for us.

As usual, we visited Cades Cove which always seems to take forever to get to as the road follows a curvy river through the valley. Here, we saw turkeys, elk, a large buck that was sunbathing, and a bear. Pretty much everything you’d want to see wildlife wise was in Cades Cove.

Overall, visiting the mountains is exactly what my wife and I needed. Our next smoky mountain milestone is visiting the area during the peak of Fall foliage. But getting the timing right is tricky and it’s also the most expensive time of the year. If you’ve never visited Smoky Mountain National Park, I highly encourage you to do so at least once in your life. Check out the gallery below which includes 89 photos from our trip.

The mountains are calling and I must go – John Muir

I’m Glad My oxyCodone Had Zero Refills

One of the prescriptions given to me to help manage the pain with my right ankle is 5mg tablets of oxyCodone. This is an opioid that I was supposed to take once every 4 hours as necessary for pain relief.

For the most part, I didn’t need to take it but when I did, it generated a relaxed, drowsy state that I started to enjoy. I was taking the pills not necessarily for pain relief, but for that feeling. I’ve recently run out of oxyCodone and I’m happy that it came with zero refills.

I can easily see based on my short experience with oxyCodone how someone can become addicted to opioid based drugs. From now on, it’s extra strength Tylenol for me.

And Here I Thought I’d Go Through Life Never Breaking A Bone

Last Saturday morning at about 5AM, I was on my way to bed when I noticed the motion detector light was on. I peeked out the kitchen window and noticed a large doe eating our rose-bush. I opened the front door and began chasing it away. I chased it further out of the yard than I normally do and my right ankle fell into a hole as I was running full speed.

I fell flat onto my face. I tried to get up and put weight on it but immediately fell to my knees. It’s at this point I realized that I broke my ankle. I embarrassingly crawled across the driveway and through my front yard and used the railing to get back into the house. I crawled to the bathroom, brushed my teeth and then crawled into bed. My wife asked if I was ok as she noticed my breathing was different. She was in a bit of shock when I told her that I think I broke my ankle.

She suggested we go to the emergency room but I told her that if I broke my ankle, or any bones, I should be in a lot more pain. I fell asleep. When I woke up at 11AM, my wife was adamant that we go to the hospital. Since all I needed were X-Rays to confirm if I broke anything, we called an Express care clinic that was nearby. I found out that most X-Ray places at the express care clinics close at noon on Saturdays.

I eventually found a location that can perform and read X-Rays until 4PM. We made the trip out there and every bump that shook my ankle was painful. As we were waiting for the X-Rays to be read, I vomited three different times because of anxiety, worry, and the high possibility I would need surgery. The X-Rays confirmed that I had broken a bone and fractured another. Each doctor that saw the X-Rays said I did a number on my ankle.

We drove from the Express Care Clinic to an ER area at a different Express Care clinic where the doctors numbed up my ankle joints and reduced/realigned my fracture as best they could. (Closed reduction is the manipulation of the bone fragments without surgical exposure of the fragments.)

I also performed a CT scan to determine if there were any more breaks or fractures in the leg which came back negative. Before releasing me, Cleveland Clinic sent over the X-Rays to an Orthopedic surgeon who confirmed I needed to have surgery right away and scheduled it for Wednesday.

Surgery Is No Joke

There were only a few times between the reduction on Sunday and my surgery that I felt a lot of pain. I ended up taking the Oxycoden more for the drowsiness factor than for pain relief. I didn’t sleep much Tuesday night as each hour that went by brought me closer to surgery. While a ton of people suggested that it would be a piece of cake, it didn’t take away the anxiety I had about the procedure.

As I laid in the hospital bed in the pre-op surgery room, I wanted to panic. I wanted to get up and run away. I wanted to lose my mind. Thanks to my wife, I was able to remain calm throughout the ordeal. I told the doctors I was anxious and they supplied me with some medicine that calmed me down. After providing a nerve block down my leg (numbs my leg from my thigh to my ankle through the main vein) I was wheeled into the surgery room.

They covered me in warm blankets which felt wonderful. They kept me calm and told me I’d notice a cold tingling feeling in my left arm where my IV was. This was the sedative that knocked me out, pretty much without warning. When I started coming too, I was back where I started and for whatever reason, I was crying. After calming down and seeing my wife again, I was happy to know that I was now on the other side of the hill towards recovery.

So here I lie in bed with my right ankle elevated, five different prescription bottles next to me and drinking plenty of water. Chasing the deer that far out into the yard was a stupid, expensive, decision. Hell, it was doing me a favor considering it’s the end of the growing season. The lesson here, leave animals alone. You can look but don’t run, especially if it’s a freaking deer.

Here’s hoping I can put weight back onto it sooner, rather than later. I imagine I’ll be going through some physical therapy here in a few weeks. By the way, here is the end result of the surgery.

Two Things That Have Me Thinking

The first is that, recently in the WordPress community, I’ve read a few posts from people who have decided to move on from the jobs they’ve had for years to pursue new opportunities. I remember when I negotiated a deal that would allow me to write about WordPress full-time and quit working at the local grocery store.

Although it wasn’t a brand new gig, it was an exciting time as it gave me renewed energy and focus to pour into the site I created. There are only a few times in my life where I’ve participated in potential career paths that seemed exciting and opened the door for new opportunities. I congratulate those who have decided to move on and to embrace the freshness that is their new job.

The second is a question asked by David Bisset on Twitter.

I replied that I’m afraid to answer the question. I think WordPress will be around in some form or fashion 5-10 years from now but will I be writing about it? This is a conversation I’ve been having with myself a lot lately. Is what I do for a living something I want to do for decades or is there a fork in my path where I get to choose a different direction.

The truth is, my current gig is the best I’ve had in my working life. Great medical benefits, vacation policy, paid travel, and a salary I never would have gotten had I stayed at the grocery store. The thought of losing that by losing my job or switching jobs scares me and it scares my wife. My wife thinks that there is no way I can get something better than what I have now. But, I’ve been doing this gig in one fashion or another for a decade and continuing on as if it’s a mundane routine without anything new and refreshing comes at the cost of possibly losing the drive, focus, passion, desire, to continue on.

The other thing that scares me is that I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I want to do other than what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m capable of and I sure as hell downplay everything about myself. I don’t know what would make me a happier employee. I’ve been struggling to answer these questions for months.

This is when someone says to me, apply yourself and learn something like PHP, JavaScript or whatever and get some skillsets that make you more valuable or open up more opportunities. Yeah sure, I’ll get right on that.

So the days and nights fly past while I ponder my future and career.



One Month Since Vesty’s Passing

It has been nearly a month since Vesty passed away and while I knew the grieving process wouldn’t be easy, I also didn’t think it would be this difficult.

Both of her beds are in their usual spots except they’re empty. Occasionally, we’ll catch the cat laying in the bed next to the heater which generates a loud negative verbal reaction from my wife. My wife and I have enjoyed a few evenings out together and during the course of dinner, one of us will share a memory of her which leads to one of us crying.

My wife and I have gone through bouts of deep sadness and mild depression. Her death has affected my ability to do my job well. Instead of feeling motivated, I’ve been stuck in a mopey mood.

Coming home still sucks. Even though my wife doesn’t say “Vesty! Baby girl, we’re home!” when we enter the house, I still hear it. We both have a stockpile of Kleenex on hand for the moments when we start crying which there have been many.

Every day that goes by that we don’t have a dog is a subtle reminder that we need one in our lives. We still haven’t decided on a name yet or when we’re going to get one but it will likely be after we file our taxes. Yorkies are an expensive breed that typically costs more than $1k.

I recently had three different dreams about Vesty of which one had me in tears. My wife and I usually look forward to Spring and Summer but not this year. We know what we’ll have to do when the ground thaws and we’re hoping it gives us some closure.


So Long Twitter, Hello Again Feedly

Not too long ago, I would be asked how I keep up with all the things that happen in the WordPress ecosystem. My answer used to be Twitter. Generally, anything that was news worthy or sharable would find its way onto my timeline.

This isn’t the case anymore. My timeline is now filled with Tweets and Retweets bashing President Trump and anything to do with him. I thought things would get better after the election but it’s only gotten worse.

I get it, Trump sucks, but the constant barrage of negativity is unbearable. I don’t need any more of this shit in my life. My Facebook feed is not as bad but it’s also a more personal network for me. I was thinking about hiding Trump tweets on Twitter to see if it would make the service useful again but I can’t hide them all.

Then I remembered how it felt when I deactivated my account for two weeks. I felt relieved and so it’s something I’m going to do again only this time it will be permanent. I’m not going to tell people what they can and can’t say or how to use a social network so quitting Twitter seems like the best solution for me. I can always get in touch with people via Facebook or Slack.

I opened my RSS reader for the first time in a long time and saw links to stories that would have been buried in Tweets about Trump if they were Tweeted at all. While browsing through feeds, I couldn’t help but notice how peaceful it was inside the app. Thank goodness Twitter and other social networks didn’t kill RSS readers.

Well, I was going to permanently deactivate my account but I don’t want to reactivate it once every thirty days so I don’t lose the data. So instead, I’ll simply log out, not use it, and remove the account from the app on my phone.

The Grieving Process Four Days Later

It’s been four tough days since Vesty passed away. My wife and I have took turns shedding tears at various moments during the week. For example, we were driving home yesterday and saw the rock Vesty always sniffed on her walks. We call it Mt. Vesty.

Then there is the mound of mulch around a tree sapling that she would climb. These are the memories that will stay with us forever but they’re also reminders that she’s gone and we won’t be going on these walks for a long time.

However, the other day, my wife and I discussed what we’d name our new dog, if we got one (when not if). We both agree that Vesty would not want us to be sad. Although it’s been rough going through the day-to-day motions without rubbing Vesty’s belly, giving her treats, and letting her outside, we are slowly moving on.

Living life without a dog is a drag and I am looking forward to getting a puppy and starting the process all over again.

Rest in Peace Vesty

We are deeply saddened to announce that Vesty “Vesta” Hartner Chandler passed away this morning at 8:57am. She had been battling Cushing’s disease for the past two years and we recently discovered she had diabetes. Vesty was a 12-year-old Yorkie AKC qualified breed.

She spent most of her life as a retiree, enjoying lots of naps, sunshine, and great food. Her favorite snacks included, milkbone biscuits, greenies, and nearly any kind of cooked meat. She was an excellent grilling partner, waiting patiently for her chance to munch on steak or chicken kabobs. What took 20 minutes to cook she would eat in 15 seconds or less.

Vesty enjoyed watching trains underneath the shade of a summer tree as she snacked on pork carnitas from Chipotle. She was the best companion a family could ask for. She was obedient, loving, compassionate, and most of all, lived life as a puppy at heart.

In her early years, Vesty would greet us at the kitchen doorstep with her stubby tail wiggling fast, excited to see us again. Her favorite questions were:

  • Wanna go for a ride?
  • Wanna go bye-bye?
  • Wanna go for a walk?

She loved riding on my lap in the truck and later, the Ford Escape with the driver-side window down. She was a top-down convertible kind of dog who loved the wind blowing through her fur.

Vesty loved to go shopping with us. We routinely took her to Home Depot, Petsmart, Petitti’s Garden Center, or anywhere we could take her. Every where we took Vesty, people fell in love with her and always commented on how well-behaved she was.

Being 12 years old, Vesty lived through various milestones.

  • The passing of Momma Hartner
  • The passing of Papa Hartner
  • Our marriage
  • The Cavs winning an NBA Championship
  • The purchase of our first brand new vehicle.
  • The Indians ALMOST winning a world series.
  • Aunty Alex and Uncle Jesse’s engagement. Vesty enjoyed free rides on the four-wheeler at Jesse’s place.
  • And Emmy sharing her cat bed.

Last year, we had a feeling that Vesty’s time with us was limited so we took her for the first time to our favorite vacation spot, the Smoky Mountains. We took a lot of great photos with her and created many valuable memories. To think, Vesty peed on the Appalachian Trail!

Vesty, my wife, and I had an amazing bond as she was involved in almost every facet of our lives. The emptiness in our hearts will be hard to fill. When we returned home from the Vet this morning, the empty bed, the water dish, her blankets, and leash, all served as reminders that Vesty was missing. This morning has been one of the most difficult events my wife, Alex, and I have experienced in our lives.

Vesty was more than a dog. She was a friend, a companion, a train watching buddy, a grilling buddy, and a great listener. She was the up when we were down. She made gloomy days sunny and life so much more enjoyable to live.

We thank everyone who has shared their concern for Vesty over the last year and appreciate the positive impact she’s had on so many of our friends and family. Vesty will live on in our memories but the physical bond has forever been broken. Please keep us and Vesty in your thoughts and prayers.

Fly Away

I’ve been struggling a lot with working from home lately. Loss of focus, desire, and endless distractions. Today, I finally went to a place that always channels my ability to work.

I’m enjoying delicious french onion soup, my favorite beer, and the occasional trains going by. I feel content, am focused on my work, and wondering how I can replicate this feeling at home.

Oh, as I write this, ‘Fly Away’ by Lenny Kravitz is on the radio. I don’t know, it seems ironic considering my mindset lately.